1. What Does Sola Scriptura Mean?
Sola Scriptura is the Latin translation for Scripture alone. As a whole, the phrase means that God’s Word is sufficient and has the highest authority for all of life. This does not mean that the Bible is clear on every issue or question we have—the Bible has little to say on how to speak Spanish or the scientific intricacies of rocket science. However, Sola Scriptura means that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, and takes supreme authority over our lives in every area it speaks to. This means that reason, logic, tradition, and experience and valid, but ultimately shall be submitted under scripture as our greatest authority (2 Peter 1:19).
When it comes to spiritual life, salvation, and Christian obedience, Sola Scriptura means that the Bible gets the final word. As Christians, we believe that all answers to our questions and all wisdom for life should first and foremost be found in the Word (Hebrews 4:12) or seen implicitly through its lens. Ultimately, Sola Scriptura is the start and foundation of everything we know about God and His glory.
2. Where Did the Phrase Sola Scriptura Come From?
The phrase Sola Scriptura originated out of the 16th century Protestant Reformation. Sola Scriptura is one of the Five Solas. The Five Solas are statements that became the slogans of the Reformation and are now seen as core tenets of the faith (more info here). The movement sought to bring reform to the Roman Catholic Church due to the corrupt teaching that tradition and church leadership stood equal in authority with scripture.
The men at work within the Reformation saw a lack of commitment to God’s Word in the Roman Catholic Church and made it their main goal to bring God’s Holy Word back to the forefront of Christianity. God used the reformers in their own unique way to uncover and renew the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which had been trampled on by man-made religion and tradition. In an article by Stephen Lawson on The Reformation and The Men Behind It, he explains the Reformation as such:
“The Reformation was essentially a crisis over which authority should have primacy. Rome claimed the church’s authority lay with Scripture and tradition, Scripture and the pope, Scripture and church councils. But the Reformers believed that the authority belonged to Scripture alone.”
Although the phrase Sola Scriptura originated out of the Protestant Reformation, the idea of Scripture as final authority can be traced directly to God’s Word. God Himself, throughout the history of the Bible has made the principle of Sola Scriptura reign true. Deuteronomy 17:14-20 states that we “shall not turn away from God’s Word, not to the right or the left”. Psalm 1:2 and Joshua 1:7-8 says that “the righteous person dwells on the Word of the Lord day and night”. Deuteronomy 8:3 states that “we do not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”. The Reformers did not create this idea on the basis of logic, virtue, experience, or tradition, but from the foundation of Scripture itself. Proverbs 30:5-6 states:
“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.”
Sola Scriptura ultimately means God’s Word alone—that we are not to add or take away any of God’s words but to submit ourselves to its supreme authority.